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DOCTOR DEFENDS HIS USE OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAW

T

The420Guy

Guest
Not long after Oregon's groundbreaking medical marijuana law took effect in
1999, word began to spread among advocates and patients about an old doctor
outside Portland who was willing to sign applications for qualified
patients if they couldn't get their regular doctor to sign.

Before long, advocacy groups all over the state were referring prospective
patients to Dr. Philip Leveque, a 78-year-old doctor of osteopathy from
Molalla, south of Portland in Clackamas County.

Leveque saw as many patients as he could and signed up those who in his
opinion had an ailment for which marijuana could help and which was
permitted under the provisions of the new law. Sometimes he traveled
throughout the state; other times he would consult with patients over the
phone after they mailed their medical records to him.

With an application signed by a physician, a patient qualifies for a
wallet-sized card from the state that permits the patient to grow marijuana
for medical purposes.

To date, Leveque has signed more than 890 such applications, accounting for
40 percent of the 2,227 medical marijuana cards issued by the state Health
Division.

The Register-Guard first reported on the doctor last Friday but did not
name him at his request. After later news reports identified Leveque, he
said he was deluged with more than 50 messages on his answering machine
from prospective medical marijuana patients.

In interviews last month and this week with The Register-Guard, Leveque
defended his aggressive medical marijuana practice, arguing that all
doctors should be willing to sign for qualified patients.

"I'm not happy to sign their applications, but it is a moral obligation to
sign their applications," he said. "I got the D.O. degree to help people.
If I am not helping people, I am abandoning my medical principles, totally
abandoning them."

In the view of medical marijuana advocates, Leveque is a courageous
physician who has helped hundreds of sick people who had nowhere else to turn.

"On the surface it's a shock that one doctor has done 40 percent" of the
applications, said John Sajo, director of Portland advocacy group Voter
Power, which has referred hundreds of patients to Leveque. "In reality he
is providing a needed service and from my perspective probably saving
people's lives."

"I've seen firsthand how Doc Leveque operates," said Todd Dalotto, a
founder of Compassion Center, a Eugene-based patient advocacy group. "He's
not just a Dr. Feelgood. ... He's doing a valuable service. He's a hero."

Dalotto estimated that Leveque has signed between 100 and 150 cards for
Eugene-Springfield residents. Last month, in a single day in Eugene,
Leveque signed up 12 patients who couldn't get signatures from their doctors.

Robert Walker of Brookings, a retired fisherman and founder of the Southern
Oregon Medical Marijuana Network, said he has referred 113 patients to Leveque.

"I'm proud of what that man has done and I'm proud of what I'm doing,"
Walker said. "This man is helping a lot of sick and injured people."

But Leveque's practices have put him under scrutiny from the state Board of
Medical Examiners, a probe that could cost Leveque his medical license.

"I'm being investigated by the Board of Medical Examiners for helping some
very, very sick and disabled people who can't get help from anybody else,"
he said.

In an April 12 letter to Leveque, a copy of which he provided to The
Register-Guard, the board alleged he authorized the use of medical
marijuana for a female patient "despite her multiple diagnoses of
methamphetamine dependence, cocaine abuse, marijuana abuse, borderline
personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression."

The board further alleged that Leveque didn't examine the patient, diagnose
her condition, confer with her primary physician nor document his care in
medical charts.

Leveque points to language in the medical marijuana law that specifically
bars the Board of Medical Examiners from disciplining a doctor who signs
for a patient, so long as the doctor signed after considering the patient's
medical history and current medical condition, and discussed marijuana's
potential risks with the person.

"I thought I was covered like a blanket on this deal because that's exactly
what I do," he said. "I get previous doctors' diagnoses. I demand a
personal medical history of these people."

Bruce Johnson, the board's assistant executive director, wouldn't confirm
the Leveque investigation nor answer questions about his case. But he said,
"If a licensee of ours didn't follow the law and someone complained, then
we would take a look at that."

Leveque has been in trouble with the Board of Medical Examiners before,
starting soon after he first got his license to practice medicine in Oregon
in 1977 when he was 54.

In 1981 and 1984, after board investigations, Leveque voluntarily agreed to
stop prescribing drugs to patients. In 1986, he was placed on a 10-year
probation, ordered to close his private practice and barred from
prescribing drugs because of what the board said was improper treatment of
pain.

Leveque confirmed that the board placed him on probation.

"I had the largest practice in south Clackamas County and other doctors
would dump their chronic pain patients on me and knew I would take care of
them."

He first heard about using marijuana to treat pain when he was under
pressure to limit the amount of pain medication he prescribed.

"The patients said, `That's OK doc, we're using marijuana, and it's just as
good as your stuff,' " Leveque said.

A World War II combat veteran, Leveque started signing applications for
veterans after the medical marijuana law passed. Veterans Affairs doctors
can't sign because federal law bars the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Voter Power first heard about Leveque after meeting some of the veterans he
signed for, Sajo said.

Before long, advocacy groups around the state began recommending Leveque as
the go-to doctor for patients who couldn't get their own physicians to sign.

Walker and Dalotto said they've watched Leveque work and contend he was not
a pushover.

"I could vouch for the fact that he conducted that business in a very
professional manner," Dalotto said. "By having someone screen the patients
before they come in and looking over their medical records, we have very
few cases of people just trying to get a note for their hangnail or
something. All the patients I've seen come through Eugene have been
seriously ill."

Walker attended sign-up sessions Leveque conducted in McMinnville and Roseburg.

"People who didn't have medical records with them, he told them flat out,
sorry, that's not the way it works," he said.

Leveque and advocates contend the real issue is not that one doctor signed
so many medical marijuana applications, but rather that so many of Oregon's
12,000 doctors won't sign them. About 540 doctors have signed applications
or provided chart notes for their patients. After Leveque, the next busiest
doctor has signed 71 applications.

Some doctors won't sign for fear of running afoul of the Drug Enforcement
Agency, which has the career-killing power to pull doctors' licenses to
prescribe federally controlled drugs. Others are uneasy advising patients
to use a drug that has no recommended dosage, widely varying potency and is
most often delivered by sucking carcinogen-laden smoke into the lungs.

"The reason Doc Leveque is signing 40 percent of the notes is that (other)
doctors aren't getting the message that it's OK to sign the notes," Dalotto
said. "Something needs to be done to reduce the fear of doctors signing
notes for patients - that's the bottom line problem."

A spokesman for the Oregon Medical Association, Jim Kronenberg, has said he
disagrees that most doctors are afraid to sign medical marijuana
applications. Most doctors have specialized practices in which they aren't
likely to encounter patients whose conditions qualify them for the medical
marijuana program, he said.


Newshawk: Starband
Pubdate: Fri, 13 Jul 2001
Source: Register-Guard, The (OR)
Copyright: 2001 The Register-Guard
Contact: rgletters@guardnet.com
Website: Breaking local news, news updates, sports, business and weather | Eugene, Oregon
Details: Overload Warning
Author: Tim Christie
Bookmark: Overload Warning (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: Overload Warning (Measure 3 (OR))
 
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